Lunjin Chen

Assistant Professor - Physics
Tags: Physics

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - Space Physics
University of California, Los Angeles - 2011
M.S. - Space Physics
University of Science and Technology of China - 2007
B.S. - Geophysics
University of Science and Technology of China - 2004

Research Areas

Research Interests
  • Magnetospheric physics
  • Interaction of electromagnetic waves and energetic charge particles in geospace plasma
  • Modeling of radiation belt dynamics
  • Instability and propagation of plasma waves
  • Applications of plasma waves
Research Description

The Earth’s magnetosphere, our geospace environment a few thousand kilometers above the Earth’s surface, consists of energetic charge particles trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field. Those energetic particles exhibit great variability due to solar activities, and pose a great threat to spacecraft orbiting in it and to astronauts. Understanding and predicting their variability are of great interest for space weather. A variety of naturally occurring electromagnetic waves, from Ultra Low Frequency to Very Low Frequency, play important roles in dynamics of those energetic charge particles, especially the radiation belts referring to population of electrons and protons with relativistic energy in geospace. The physical process involved is called wave-particle resonant interaction, where electromagnetic waves seen by particles match fundamental frequencies of trapped particles, leading to stochastic change in particles’ energy and momentum. My research interest is to study the nature of electromagnetic waves in our geospace and the effect of wave-particle interaction. We use various numerical simulation techniques to address the following questions, how are electromagnetic waves generated due to what kind of free energy, how do them propagate in complex geospace medium, where is the wave energy absorbed, how those waves affect energetic particles, and how do we model temporal evolution and spatial distribution of energetic particle population due to wave-particle interaction. These questions are the compelling science topics of the NASA’s $700M two-twin Van Allen Probes Mission. The mission, named after Dr. Van Allen who made the discovery of the radiation belts in 1958, was launched in 2012 August and aims at identifying fundamental mechanisms responsible for radiation belt loss and acceleration.


For more information on Van Allen Probes from NASA

or from youtube (search for “Van Allen probes”)

or from wiki


Lunjin Chen and Richard Thorne (2012), Perpendicular Propagation of Magnetosonic Waves, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L14102, doi:10.1029/2012GL052485. 2012 - Publication
Lunjin Chen, Wen Li, Jacob Bortnik, and Richard Thorne (2012), Amplification of whistler-mode hiss inside the plasmasphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L08111, 2012, doi:10.1029/2012GL051488. 2012 - Publication
Lunjin Chen, Richard Thorne, Wen Li, Jacob Bortnik, Drew Turner, and Vassilis Angelopoulos (2012), Modulation of plasmaspheric hiss intensity by thermal plasma density structure, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L14103, doi:10.1029/2012GL052308. (AGU Research Spotlight) 2012 - Publication
Peter Gary, Kaijun Liu, and Lunjin Chen (2012), Alfven-cyclotron instability with singly ionized helium: Linear theory, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A08201, doi:10.1029/2012JA017740. 2012 - Publication
Chen, L., R. Thorne, V. Jordanova, M. Thomsen, R. Horne (2011), Magnetosonic wave instability analysis for proton ring distributions observed by the LANL MPA detector, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A03223, doi:10.1029/2010JA016068. 2011 - Publication
Thomsen, M. F., M. H. Denton, V. K. Jordanova, L. Chen, and R. M. Thorne (2011), Free energy to drive equatorial magnetosonic wave instability at geosynchronous orbit, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A08220, doi:10.1029/2011JA016644. 2011 - Publication
Bortnik, J., L. Chen, W. Li, R. M. Thorne, N. P. Meredith, and R. B. Horne (2011), Modeling the wave power distribution and characteristics of plasmaspheric hiss, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A12, doi:10.1029/2011JA016862. 2011 - Publication
Ni, B., R. Thorne, R. Horne, N. Meredith, Y. Shprits, L. Chen, and W. Li (2011), Resonant scattering of plasma sheet electrons leading to diffuse auroral precipitation: 1. Evaluation for electrostatic electron cyclotron harmonic waves, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A04218, doi:10.1029/2010JA016232. 2011 - Publication
Bortnik, J., L. Chen, W. Li, R. M. Thorne, and R. B. Horne (2011), Modeling the evolution of chorus waves into plasmaspheric hiss, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A08221, doi:10.1029/2011JA016499. 2011 - Publication
Bortnik, J., N. Omidi, L. Chen, R. M. Thorne, and R. B. Horne (2011), Saturation characteristics of electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A09219, doi:10.1029/2011JA016638 2011 - Publication


Assistant Researcher
UCLA [2013–2013]
Assistant Professor
UT, Dallas [2013–Present]
Postdoctoral Researcher
UCLA [2011–2013]
Graduate Student Researcher
UCLA [2007–2011]


Young Investigator Award - USAF [2016]

Additional Information

Awards and Honors
  • 2012 American Geophysical Union Space Physics and Aeronomy Section‘s 2012 Fred L. Scarf Award
    Given annually to a recent recipient of a Ph.D. for outstanding dissertation researchthat contributes directly to solar-planetary science.
  • 2012 Nominee for the Chancellor‘s Award for Postdoctoral Research, UCLA.
    The award is given to recognize the important contributions that postdoctoral scholars from a variety of academic areas make to UCLA’s research mission.
  • 2010 Jacob A. Bjerknes Award.
    Given for graduate students of the outstanding research by the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, UCLA

News Articles

Scientist's Space Weather Work Gets Support from Air Force Grant
Beyond Earth’s breathable atmosphere, above the strata where airplanes fly and meteoroids burn up into shooting stars, lies a dynamic region between our planet and the sun, and what happens there is intricately connected to our everyday lives. 
Dr. Lunjin Chen
, an assistant professor of physics at UT Dallas, recently received a three-year, approximately $360,000 grant through the Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program to study “space weather” in this region, called the magnetosphere.